As many in NASCAR have listened and looked to Bubba Wallace for guidance and understanding, the 26-year-old has gone head-on into an activist’s role while also racing.
The lone black driver in NASCAR’s top series admitted before Wednesday night’s Cup race at Martinsville Speedway he had slept little in a week that saw him finish 21st at Atlanta on Sunday, say Monday that NASCAR should “get rid of all the Confederate flags” at its events, see NASCAR ban Confederate flags at its events on Wednesday afternoon and drive a #BlackLivesMatter car at Martinsville Speedway later that night. In what he called the “biggest race of my career,” Wallace finished 11th.
He will have little rest. Wallace is scheduled to appear on NBC’s “Today” show after 8 a.m. ET Thursday.
Wallace’s close friend, Ryan Blaney, finished second to winner Martin Truex Jr. and praised what Wallace has done in helping lead NASCAR’s movement against social injustice.
“I think it’s great, the initiative he’s showing and wanting to be a part of change, the right change,” Blaney said. “I feel like he’s on his way, man. He’s doing a really good job. I think he was on CNN the other night. He did a great job on that.
“Like I said, I’ve just known him a long time and he’s just Bubba to me. I think of him as a brother. It’s good to talk to him, but I think he’s definitely not getting sleep because he’s so busy. It’s good things, a good cause that he’s striving towards.”
Joey Logano also praised what Wallace has done lately.
“It says in the Bible, ‘Look at yourself before others,’ and I think you need to fix your heart, find your heart, know what’s right,” Logano said. “I’m not speaking as myself, I’m speaking for everybody, that’s just the way we should be.
“It was really cool to see what Bubba was able to do. I didn’t see where he finished, but he should be proud of the movement he’s made for the African American community in our sport. He always has just by being here, but when you look at the comments he made on CNN the other day and then NASCAR completely answered it. Kudos to NASCAR. Kudos to Bubba for bringing it up and using his platform for something good. That’s the most important thing. We can win races.
“I say this all the time, winning a championship is nice, but what is it? It’s an empty trophy, it’s an empty cup. That’s what it is. If you do nothing with it, it’s really pointless at the end of the day, so kudos to him for really stepping up and being a leader and not just a race car driver.”
Wallace was excited after Wednesday night’s race and almost scoring a top-10 finish.
“Our Black Lives Matter Chevrolet, that’s so good to say,” Wallace said to FS1 after the race, “was so good on the long runs. … All in all, great job to come in and execute, no practice, my favorite place and it just continues to show.”
Wallace challenged for his third top-10 finish of the season, falling short to seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who has talked often with Wallace in the last week, helping orchestrate the driver video posted last weekend condemning racial inequality and racism.
“I’ll tell you what, it was badass racing with seven-time there at the end,” Wallace said. “You think Jimmie Johnson wins so many times here (nine Cup wins) and we’re running him down. That’s hats off to my guys.”